Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Always give the bastards more credit than they deserve."

"[Feynman] never showed the slightest resentment when I published some of his ideas before he did.  He told me that he avoided disputes about priority in science by following a simple rule:  'Always give the bastards more credit than they deserve.'  I have followed this rule myself.  I find it remarkably effective for avoiding quarrels and making friends.  A generous sharing of credit is the quickest way to build a healthy scientific community."

Freeman Dyson, "The 'dramatic picture' of Richard Feynman," The New York review of books 58, no. 12 (July 14, 2011):  40 (39-40).

Number her saints and doctors

Walk about Zion, go round about her,
   number her towers,
consider well her ramparts,
   go through her citadels;
that you may tell the next generation
   that this is our God,
our God for ever and ever.
   He will be our guide for ever.

Ps 48:12-14, RSV.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Now do what is human, and flee

"It was said concerning Abba Daniel, that when the barbarians invaded Scetis and the Fathers fled away, the old man said, 'If God does not care for me, why still live?'  Then he passed through the midst of the barbarians without being seen.  He said to himself therefore, 'See how God has cared for me, since I am not dead.  Now I will do that which is human [(SC 474:  ᾿Οφείλω κἀγὼ ποιῆσαι τὸ ἀνθρώπινον / PG 65:  ποίησον οῦν καὶ σὺ τὸ ἀνθρώπινον)] and flee with the Fathers.'"

     Collection systématique X.21 (SC 474, p. 28) = Abba Daniel 1 (PG 65, col. 153).  The desert Christian:  sayings of the Desert Fathers:  the alphabetical collection, trans. Benedicta Ward (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 51.  The heading comes from PG 65.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Correct and judge justly those who are subject to you"

"A demoniac boy came one day to be healed, and some brothers from an Egyptian monastery arrived.  As one old man was coming out to meet them he saw a brother sinning with the boy [(ἁμαρτάνοντα μετὰ τοῦ παιδίου)], but he did not accuse him [(αὐτὸν)]; he said, 'If God who has made them [(αὐτοὺς)] sees them and does not burn them, who am I to blame them?'"

     Abba John the Persian 1 (PG 65, col. 236).  This one doesn't appear in the Collection systématique (SC 387, 474, and 498), or, at least, not in the Concordance (SC 498, pp. 217 ff.) under John the Persian.  The desert Christian:  sayings of the Desert Fathers:  the alphabetical collection, trans. Benedicta Ward (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 107.  Cf. pp. 30, 86, 100, 118, 131, 133, 145, 191, all of which make it clear that acts of this sort (including those between "consenting adults") were considered (if not any worse than fornication more generally) seriously problematic.  The only real question, then, is that of the wisdom of the indiscriminate application of this approach (focused as it was on the sin of pride) to the contemporary context, given the previously unprecedented demand for affirmation and celebration.
     (And that's to say nothing of the wisdom of it considered as a matter of episcopal policy.  I mean, who, pointing to the example of Abba John for whatever reason today, would recommend it to the bishops of the Catholicor any otherChurch qua procedure?)
     However, I have only begun to dabble in this material.

     The title is taken from Collection systématique X.46 (SC 474, p. 42) = Abba Macarius of Alexandria 2 (PG 65, cols. 304-305):

"Abba Macarius went one day to Abba Pachomius of Tabennisi.  Pachomius asked him, 'When brothers do not submit to the rule, is it right to correct them?'  Abba Macarius said to him, 'Correct and judge justly [(SC 474:  Παίδευσον καὶ κρῖνον δικαίως / PG 65:  Παίδευσον, καὶ κρίνον δικαίως)] those who are subject to you, but judge no-one else.  For truly it is written:  "Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?  God judges those outside."' (1 Cor. 5.12-13)"

     The desert Christian:  sayings of the Desert Fathers:  the alphabetical collection, trans. Benedicta Ward (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 152.

"'I have not yet become a monk myself, but I have seen monks.'"

Collection systématique XX.4 (SC 498, pp. 164, 166) = Abba Macarius the Great 2 (PG 65, cols. 260-261).  The desert Christian:  sayings of the Desert Fathers:  the alphabetical collection, trans. Benedicta Ward (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 125-126.

Don't try this at home

"One of the Fathers related of Abba Sisoes of Calamon that, wishing to overcome sleep one day, he hung himself over the precipice of Petra.  An angel came to take him down and ordered him not to do that again and not to transmit such teaching to others."

     Abba Sisoes 33 (PG 65, col. 403/404).  This one doesn't appear in the Collection systématique (SC 387, 474, and 498), or, at least, not in the Concordance (SC 498, pp. 217 ff.) under Sisoès.  The desert Christian:  sayings of the Desert Fathers:  the alphabetical collection, trans. Benedicta Ward (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 219.

Vetus Testamentum in Novo

"A brother asked Abba Sisoes the Theban, 'Give me a word,' and he said, 'What shall I say to you?  I read the New Testament, and I turn to the Old.'"

Abba Sisoes 35 (PG 65, col. 404).  This one doesn't appear in the Collection systématique (SC 387, 474, and 498), or, at least, not in the Concordance (SC 498, pp. 217 ff.) under Sisoès.  The desert Christian:  sayings of the Desert Fathers:  the alphabetical collection, trans. Benedicta Ward (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 219 (ἀναγινώσκω, ἀνακάμπτω).

Mary needs Martha

"A brother went to see Abba Silvanus on the mountain of Sinai.  When he saw the brothers working hard he said to the old man, 'Do not labour for the food which perishes. (John 6.27)  Mary has chosen the good portion.' (Luke 10.42)  The old man said to his disciple, 'Zacharias, give the brother a book and put him in a cell without anything else.'  So when the ninth hour came the visitor watched the door expecting someone would be sent to call him to the meal.  When no-one called him he got up, went to find the old man and said to him, 'Have the brothers not eaten today?'  The old man replied that they had.  Then he said, 'Why did you not call me?'  The old man said to him, 'Because you are a spiritual man and do not need that kind of food.  We, being carnal, want to eat, and that is why we work.  But you have chosen the good portion and read the whole day long and you do not want to eat carnal food.'  When he heard these words the brother made a prostration saying, 'Forgive me, abba.'  The old man said to him, 'Mary needs Martha.  It is really thanks to Martha that Mary is praised.'"

Collection systématique X.99 (SC 474, p. 78) = Abba Silvanus 5 (PG 65, col. 409/410).  The desert Christian:  sayings of the Desert Fathers:  the alphabetical collection, trans. Benedicta Ward (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 223.

"We know that the old man does not suffer harm from them but we. . . ."

"One day Abba Sisoes left Abba Anthony's mountain to go to the outer mountain of the Thebaid and there he stayed.  Now there were some Meletians there who lived at Calamon of Arsinoe.  Hearing that the old man had come to the outer mountain, some people wished to see him but they said, 'What shall we do because the Meletians are on the mountain.  We know that the old man does not suffer harm from them but we are afraid lest, in wanting to meet the old man, we fall into the temptation of the heretics [(πειροσμὸν τῶν αἱρετικῶν)].'  So as not to meet the heretics, they did not go to see the old man."

Abba Sisoes 48 (PG 65, col. 405/406).  This one doesn't appear in the Collection systématique (SC 387, 474, and 498), or, at least, not in the Concordance (SC 498, pp. 217 ff.) under Sisoès.  The desert Christian: sayings of the Desert Fathers: the alphabetical collection, trans. Benedicta Ward (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 221, italics mine.  (The Melitians were more schismatics than heretics, however.)